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Passive or Passion
Christianity sometimes seems like the religion of passivity. We have already been saved, so there is not a whole lot of pressure. We abstain to remain pure, sit still to be moved, and if someone slaps us, we simply turn the other cheek. The less action, the less outward participation, the better.
We can see this attitude in the Christian community, especially upper middle class Christian communities. Many of us at SCU, myself included, grew up in such communities. Within these comfortable confines, it is easy to fall into rhythms - church once a week, prayer once a day, bible once in a while - and think that as long as we stay consistent in them we are living an upstanding religious life.
Needless to say, there is something lacking in this. James 2:14 tells us what it is. "Faith without works is dead." When our daily and weekly faith rhythms have no outward effect, the whole process loses its meaning. It is too easy to trap ourselves in our gated communities, to drive in circles around our comfortable cul-de-sacs, to stay inside the campus bubble. For me, this problem is borne of a combination of laziness and fear. Laziness because so many of those problems that should rile up Christians - poverty, hunger, homelessness, violence, depression, abuse - are far away. In my private little circle, all is well. I say fear as well because this peaceful area we confine ourselves to is our comfort zone. We are scared to venture outside of it because for fear of losing that life of comfort. But this place of security is far more dangerous to our faith (Gary Haugen, Just Courage). In contrast, whoever loves their life will lose it, and whoever gives up their life for Jesus' work will have eternal life through him (John 12:25).
Prayer, reflection, and resisting temptation are vital parts of our development. However, their purpose is not to check religion off the to do list, they are supposed to lead us somewhere so that we can accomplish "works" beyond our human limits. In John 14:12, Jesus tells us that these works are even beyond anything he did while on earth, which, if I recall, was not too shabby. In one of his most earnest conversations with his disciples, seconds before ascending into heaven after his resurrection, Jesus commissions us towards these works, saying "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 27:16).
At first glance, Christianity may seem to be saying "Hey no worries, we've got everything taken care of," and in a sense it is. We are not called to worry about getting results. I cannot say I have ever experienced Judgment Day, but I can guess that it will not be like a report card or a performance review, asking just how many orphans we saved from being eaten by sharks or how many drug addicts we turned into priests. At the same time though, we are called to act on our faith, not just have it. Indeed, God even defines Himself as action when telling Moses His name: "I am."
Now, the remaining question after all this is what works of faith look like. Well, that is where my 19-year-old brain starts to hurt, but conveniently, God was not the only one who gave a definition. John did too. Specifically, 1 John 4:8, "God is love." Therefore, it follows that when we love, we God. The grammar seems a bit off, but if God is a verb, an action, then it makes perfect sense. Prayer, reflection, and faith will reveal what our works will be, but it is our responsibility to act, to God. In the words of Mother Theresa, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service."
Aidan O'Neill is a freshman business student from Gig Harbor, Washington. He enjoys climbing trees, making forts out of pillows, and riding Segways. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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